Archive for Thursday, September 28, 1995

GIRL SCOUTS HAS CHANGED TO MEET MODERN NEEDS

September 28, 1995

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Twelve-year-old Emily Petr's eyes grew as she recalled the story of her most frightening Girl Scout camping experience.

"It must have been like five inches across, and it was hairy. I screamed really loud and slammed the door, and I ran out and got a leader," she said.

The hairy beast in question was a spider she came across during a camp-out with her Girl Scout troop. Emily is one of the 1,371 girls in Douglas County who participated in Girl Scouts last year.

The Kaw Valley Girl Scout Council encompasses 13 counties, including Douglas County. The United Way of Douglas County has allocated $8,286 to the council from its current drive.

Donna Pearson, membership specialist for the Girl Scouts in Douglas County, believes the organization has changed a lot since Juliette Gordon Low brought it to the United States in 1912.

"Everyone seems to have the idea that all Girl Scouts do is sell cookies and make crafts," Pearson said. "Our organization is so much more. ... The program has changed to meet the needs of the times."

Girls learn cooperation, respect, understanding, self-confidence and leadership skills through events as varied as putting on theater productions and attending seminars given by the Society of Women Engineers at Kansas University.

Even the annual cookie sales teach money management and salesmanship, Pearson said.

All Girl Scout programs share three common traits: They foster the democratic process, include a female leader or role model and possess a moral belief system.

Female leaders of the troops are volunteers. There were 484 adults registered with the Girl Scouts in Douglas County last year.

One of these volunteers is Mary Beth Petr, Emily's mom. Mary Beth has been a troop leader for eight years.

"The good of Girl Scouts, for the girls, is the idea of having activities where it's only girls," Mary Beth said. "It's a girl organization, so you don't have to deal with the male factor. And they have female role models and activities that females are interested in. It's really strong for women."

Girl Scouting is a family affair in the Petr household. Mary Beth's husband, David Petr, is a Girl Scout (only Girl Scouts under 18 have to be female), as is her 15-year-old daughter, Hannah.

Hannah is now in her second year of Senior Girl Scouts. She's been a Girl Scout since second grade.

The older Girl Scouts have more opportunities for travel and special programs. Last July, for example, Hannah attended a program called Art Explosion at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. She learned about fabrics and painting and made some close friends.

Older girls also take more of a leadership role in the planning of events. Hannah recalled a service project in which her troop built a sidewalk -- poured the cement, planted the flowers, took care of every detail -- that led from a nursing home into the neighboring Girl Scout campground called Hidden Valley.

"Girl Scouts has taught me to be organized," Hannah said. "When I was working on my Silver Award, I really had to record everything I had done and keep it all together. If I hadn't been organized, I would've never finished it."

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